Tuesday, October 20, 2009
PKK rebels surrender to Turkey in support of peace
A group of Kurdish separatist rebels have turned themselves in to Turkish authorities in a sign of support for Ankara’s peace efforts.
In a major breakthrough in the decades-long conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), eight members of the outlawed group crossed into Turkey from their refuge in Iraq on Monday in a gesture of support for the government’s bid to resolve the conflict through democratic reform.
On their way, they were joined by 26 other Kurds and PKK supporters, including women and children, from a refugee camp in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq. Thousands of supporters waving PKK flags welcomed them in the town of Silopi as they crossed the border.
The refugees and militants were taken in for questioning upon arrival to determine whether they had committed any crimes.
The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), Turkey’s only legal Kurdish party, said their surrender “shows that the PKK is insisting on peace not war.”
The symbolic move by the PKK militants came in line with the government’s efforts to end a 25-year conflict with the rebels (who want autonomy in southeast Turkey), by giving greater freedom to the 12-million-strong Kurdish minority in the region.
Ankara has promised to deal leniently with those willing to give up the armed struggle.
The PKK, based in northern Iraq, took up arms against Ankara in 1984. More than 45,000 people have lost their lives in the decades-long conflict.